So you bought your kid a computer for Christmas.

Like an estimated 2 million others, you caved in at the last minute to those television commercials playing on the bottomless pit of parental paranoia, the ones that show little McChesney going to the top of his class after interfacing with a machine that costs more than your first car but less than dinner in New York.

It won't be long before every kid in America will have a computer and every kid will be doing his homework on a computer. No more broken pencil points squinched in sweaty hands under Tensor lamps. No more ink blobs or goobers or staying inside the margins.

It's the end of an error.

And the reason your kids are smiling this morning is not because they're entering the exciting world of microchips. It's because for the first time in history, they will have an army of absolutely airtight excuses for not doing their homework.

Anyone who has ever worked with computers will understand.

*"I'm sorry, Mrs. Smith, the printer ran out of paper and my dad couldn't figure out how to load it."

*"One of the disk drives was making a funny noise and we took it to the computer store and they said it would take three weeks to fix it if they can get the part."

*"There was an electrical storm last night and the surge suppressor wasn't turned on and it wiped out my mother board."

*"The program you wanted me to work on is not compatible with this machine, which was purchased two months ago and is already obsolete."

*"I spilled Hawaiian Punch on the modem."

*"My mom didn't have time to buy that spray for static and the program kept repeating SYNTAX ERROR and I stayed up till midnight trying to get it to stop playing 'The Mexican Hat Dance.' "

*"I pressed 'erase' instead of 'record.' "

*"I couldn't get any computer time last night. My older brother was tapping into the Pentagon."

*"The dog ate my software."